is it really different this time?
I’m an older millennial and have some family members who are Gen Z who I’m pretty close with.
Five or so years ago, and especially through the pandemic, I was really worried for them and their cohort: social media had consumed them. TikTok was like a mind virus. The phone attachment seemed to be hurtful, not helpful.
Since then, I’ve watched them somewhat break out of the spell of that social media tech. it’s been really neat. What’s emerged has been some really thoughtful, hardworking young adults.
I’m optimistic about what’s coming. My kids are Gen Alpha, or whatever, and it is good to think of how they’ll look up to the Zoomers as role models, the way I did coming of age in the 2000s.
Good times to come, I’m convinced.
Love the term Gen Zoomers. The “change” and “pressure” of this generation will be the scars that form them. I am excited to see how they will forge and change the world as every generation before them have.
I think every gen goes through a similar phase: perhaps it is more acute in the Anglo-European world due to various psyops playing out - we're missing 100 million children, grandchildren and great grandchildren due to Roe vs Wade for instance - my kids were "millenials" and had to get written permission to get their first jobs because they were only fourteen.
Your writing is so so excellent. Really enjoyed this one, keep up the good work!
This was extremely informative and made me reflect on so many things. Thank you Kyla for writing this piece!
Your use of “Sketch” instead of “Sus” tells me that Gen Z can be generationally multilingual!
A beautiful perspective, thank you!
Kyla, I loved this post! ('93 baby here.) I feel like you captured my strong but vague feelings and put them into coherent, sophisticated ideas. Work is different for us. It has to be. I've personally taken to working for myself because the alternative just seems so empty, draining, and soul sucking. And the money isn't worth it. I do believe we have it a bit easier here in Australia with largely free healthcare (google medicare). So our health at least isn't tied to our jobs. But as I'm entering my 30s I've noticed more and more friends are considering self-employment. Mostly due to the crushing weight of middle management. My younger brother (born '97) is travelling the world and working remotely by coding from his laptop. Work is different for us. Our parents (boomers) are supportive but also have no idea what's going on lol.
It really is a different world. I am both excited and cautious. I love your post because it helps me feel optimistic despite all the shenanigans we've gone through. Let's see what happens next!
"...we're missing 100 million children, grandchildren and great grandchildren due to Roe vs Wade for instance ..." Did you really like that comment?
Thank you, Kyla. Love reading your pieces. I’d add 9/11 as another important event, at least for US Zoomers. Most don’t remember it (my kiddo born in ’97 does, vaguely) but it’s kind of been looming in the background ever since. Parenting became even more hyper focused, especially for people who had their first child afterwards. Part of the loss of physical third spaces is due to this change and increase in supervision, I guess. Anyway, Gen Z is the first one to grow up with that history and its effect on conditions in the US.
Gen Z was born 1997-2012. Gen Z was, at most, 4 years old in 2001 - many were not yet born. They are likely to have little or no memory of the dot com fiasco. One fourth of Gen Z had not yet been born by the 2008 "Great Recession" and applying a broad brush saying the entire generation suffered through and was shaped by these economic downturns makes no sense.
Also, the labor market of the 1980s was very different than that of today. The U.S. fertility rate hit 3.75 in 1960 - 20 years after that, the largest cohort of new young workers was simultaneously entering the job market and competing for jobs. The fertility rate fell below the 2.1 replacement rate in 1973 (today it is just under 1.8). In 1980, the average annualized unemployment was about 11% and was above 6% for about a decade. In 2023 unemployment has been much lower.
As Business Insider wrote, "Ever since the baby boom that followed World War II, companies have enjoyed a never-ending supply of workers to tap. Hate your job? Fine — we’ll just replace you with one of the hundred others who would be happy to fill your shoes. The abundance of workers made them cheap — and disposable."
Today that supply of an ever-increasing cohort of new young workers is gone, so we've turned, to some extent, to immigration (majority of U.S. population growth now comes from immigration). But with 75% of the world's population living in countries with negative population growth, that solution is only temporary and will only likely work for some countries.
Population demographics, over time, play a critical role in perceptions of work and jobs.
The concept of Working So Hard Just To Be A Consumer is not exactly appealing to me
Regarding the generational thing ... it comes out that much of what earlier generations evoke is a matter "rosy retrospection"
As you indicated ... economic puzzle pieces that never quite fit
I was at a restaurant recently waiting for the take out I ordered to be ready ...
A Father & His Daughter came in, the Father paid with his card, and they were also waiting for their take out
The Father starts going on to me about how America is falling apart, everything getting crazy inflated, and so on
The Daughter was basically like "Please, I'm sure you complained about things being expensive", referring to the times when her Father was around the age she currently is
It got quite serious between the two (she said she'd wait in the car if he kept doing this), and they didn't speak much at all until their food was ready & they left
Thanks for sticking up for humanities degrees.
This piece offered me a lot of insight.
Do you think things are set to be better for Gen Z than they were for their parents as they graduate into an economy with low unemployment and falling inflation? Further, what kind of support would you like to see for workers?